Chef Dakota Weiss
On a sweltering day in the city of Angels I made my way towards the Sunset Strip and the heart of filmmaking country. Dakota and I have crossed paths more than a few times and yet I haven’t had the opportunity to work with her. Today that ends. After our photo shoot we sat down and had a nice conversation.
How did you get started in the food industry?
“I started in college. I worked at this cute mom and pop coffee shop making scones and sandwiches. I had this little Betty Crocker cookbook and took with me everyday to work and made new muffins, scones and cakes and whatever and I just fell in love with it. And to a point where I started skipping classes so I could cook. My mom was like “dude, you gotta decide what you want to do. So that’s when I decided to go to culinary school”.
How important was food for you growing up?
“My mom was like a super hippy and when we were babies she would get ingredients straight from our garden and pureed it. And that’s what we ate. Dessert for us was a date or some fruit leather she made and we would be like God this sucks. We always craved junk food but she would never allow it. Though we never knew it she basically raised us to be little foodies.”
How would you describe your food?
“I feel like I cook very simply but I like to play around with a lot ingredients.
Tell me about your culinary background.
“Well I spent a lot time traveling in different cities cooking but my most memorable time was in Atlanta. I spent six years there. I started cooking at a steak house and then a New Mexican place but my majority of time was at the Ritz Carlton. There was when I worked under Bruno Menard and it changed my life. His style was French/Japanese fusion. I learned so much from him as far as all the Japanese flavor profiles which was reinforced when I landed at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. The chef there also had a very heavy Japanese style. I then worked under Steven Star in Philadelphia for two years then back here in Los Angeles at Estrella.
Who is someone you admire?
“Well initially I would always say my mom but now I would have to say it’s my sister. She is such a badass! She is a big time lawyer, mother of two, and a great wife. Super inspirational, especially when I hear about her day as compared to mine.”
Does the term “female chef” bother you?
“Honestly it doesn't bother me at all. I am a chef first and foremost. But I will say that because I am a female it has helped my career move along a littler faster. I think I was recognized a little more because I am a female. I will say that it doesn’t need to be male chef or female chef? Absolutely not. What’s been nice is that over the last couple of years the women chefs in LA have gotten together more to do dinners. Recently I did some dinner events with Suzanne Going and Nancy Silverton and literally was called “No Boys Aloud”. It has brought all of us together as a community which is super nice.”
What kind of advice would you give to the aspiring chef?
“Stay humble, keep your mouth shut and listen. Absorb, absorb, absorb”.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
(without hesitation she answers) “I would be a florist!
What would be your last dish be?
“I would have to go with cheese. Maybe a nice triple cream cheese with a fresh baguette”.
After spending time with Dakota I can see why so many people in our industry love her. She is a simple, fun loving person but definitely has that drive that all successful people have. She definitely raises the bar for young aspiring chefs.